Greek Freak For the past several seasons in the NBA, there has been a bright, blinding and rising star who has continued to awe and engage hearts across the world year after year: Giannis Antetokounmpo. But what makes the “Greek Freak” so incredible is not only what he has been able to do on the court, but also his experience and devotion to those off the court and back in his home country of Greece through the AntetokounBros Academy.

The Antetokounmpos’ History

In 2019, Antetokounmpo and his brothers began this basketball academy to support young adults and children from underprivileged socioeconomic groups. The academy provides its participants with the opportunities to get involved with sports and to sometimes just get a hot meal and some rest. As of 2021, the AntetokounBros Academy has helped several hundred kids get onto the basketball court and impacted many more lives through community outreach.

The Antetokounmpos grew up in difficult circumstances as “stateless” Nigerian immigrants in Greece. Since they were young, Giannis and his older brother Thanassis began hawking things like sunglasses on the streets to help their parents pay for living expenses. The family would often go without meals for several days.

These circumstances are not uncommon in Athens and in Greece as a whole. Since the financial crises of the late 2010s, Greece has struggled to bounce back after major economic hits. This has resulted in Greece experiencing the third-highest poverty rate in the European Union. In 2015, the European Parliament reported 45% of children in Greece were living without basic goods and services.

Addressing the Problems

In the light of this hardship, the brothers have stated that they believe basketball brought them where they are today. The community it gave them and the time they spent at basketball camps –which provided paid meals or free clothes– were incredibly helpful for them as they grew up.

Athens is the largest metropolitan area with the densest concentration of people in Greece. It is also the hometown of the Antetokounmpo brothers. As such, the AntetokounBros Academy is a program that promotes community involvement for the youth of Athens to get involved with sports, specifically basketball. A Eurostat study found that “4 in 10” under the age of 17 are at risk of “poverty or social exclusion,” and the situation for the people of Athens specifically is extremely dire.

Over the years, the academy has also come to serve as a community center and help center; it takes in and develops young players and coaching staff from all around Greece, with a particular interest in people from communities that are struggling socioeconomically.

Considering the Impact

The AntetokounBros Academy has set out to inspire charitable work through basketball and outreach in the local community. The academy does everything from hosting food drives to collecting donations worldwide — with help from the Greek Freak himself of course. It hosts tournaments, provides mentoring workshops and scouts talent.

The AntetokounBros Academy has partnered with the Onassis Foundation, Nike, EuroHoops and the NBA to bring about awareness. The organizations also work to show the world the results that such a program can bring to the members of a community while combatting some of the symptoms of poverty.

As Konstantinos Papaloukas, Managing Partner of EuroHoops, an integral partner and benefactor of the academy, said in a statement, “With the Initiative of AntetokounmBros Academy we give opportunities to children to change their lives and fight for their dreams.”

From sharing a pair of basketball shoes with all four of his brothers to becoming a champion and Finals MVP just this last NBA season, the Greek Freak, together with his brothers, understands more than most about the burdens of circumstance and the incredible impact of help in every person’s life.

– John J. Lee
Photo: Unsplash

Nesthy Petecio
Nesthy Petecio was a young child who grew up on a farm in the town of Santa Cruz in Davao del Sur in the Philippines. She spent her childhood helping her family make ends meet on their farm. Most of the time, though, this still was not enough and her family struggled to get by. Despite her start in life, Petecio competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a boxer.

A Rough Start to Life

Petecio’s childhood on her family’s farm was not the picturesque version of farm life that books or TV frequently show. Her job to clean up the chicken poop humbled her often. Though the family had a small plot of land, they still had to work hard to maintain the land enough to support their family.

Despite their hard work, there were times when the farm just was not enough. “During that time we really had nothing and we would just borrow money to be able to buy our food,” Petecio told the “Go Hard Girls” podcast in March. Petecio was used to doing almost anything for food, including fighting.

In her neighborhood, she would enter inter-barangay competitions to earn food. The young girl would physically fight in order to get a shot at a good meal for herself. These inter-barangay fights were not anything complicated — they were simply in neighborhood basketball courts, the beach or anywhere else that seemed plausible.

The Spark of a Lifetime

Nesthy Petecio showed promise, and luckily her dad had once dreamed of becoming a boxer himself. He decided to coach her, starting when she was 7 years old. She worked hard and kept fighting through her childhood. Though she only had her dad to help her learn, she continued to develop her craft.

When Petecio was 11, she fought against a male opponent who was much larger and stronger than she was at the time. Though attendees at the match tried to tell her to stop, she was persistent in wanting to continue. Her firmness paid off as she ended up winning the fight.

This fight, along with her drive for the sport, gave her the public boost she needed to receive recognition from the national team and go further with boxing. She saw this as a way out of poverty for her and her family. She began to win international medals at the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Championships in the early 2010s.

Almost Turning Away

In 2016, Petecio failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Further down the line, she experienced defeat early on in the 2018 Asian Games. This was almost too much for her to handle at the time. She told Olympics.com about the depression she faced following her loss. “I was going to look for a job. I was looking for other options,” she said. At that time, I was really feeling down. I was feeling depressed, I was stressed.”

After a break in 2018, she came back strong in 2019 and won the World Championships, proving to herself that she could still compete. The COVID-19 pandemic only gave her extra time to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she dominated the competition and took home a silver medal for her country. She is the first Filipino woman to win an Olympic medal in boxing.

Nesthy Petecio worked hard for a sport she loved, but also saw an opportunity to live life better than what she was born into. Boxing was her way of doing just that, and becoming an Olympic athlete was more than she could have dreamed of.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Social Skateboarding Organizations Provide Students With Needed Programs and SkateboardsWith its addition to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, skateboarding has become increasingly popular and recognized in the mainstream. However, underdeveloped countries typically do not have access to high-quality or even necessary equipment to get involved in the sport. Therefore, social skateboarding organizations work to ensure everyone has access to this healthy and beneficial sport.

Social Skateboarding

Skateboarding and social inclusion are what comprise social skateboarding. It promotes the idea that everyone should have the opportunity to skate, including traditionally marginalized groups. Aspects such as conflict, costs and social norms prevent many from becoming involved with the sport. These aspects affect girls, those with disabilities, refugees and more. On a global scale, this also includes those affected by global poverty.

Skateistan

Skateistan is a global skate organization made up of one hundred staff and volunteers from around the world. It runs five unique programs in its Skate Schools around the globe, benefiting underprivileged children from the ages of five to seventeen. Currently, it has Skate School locations in Cambodia, South Africa and Jordan.

Skateistan’s Programs

One of Skateistan’s main focuses is Outreach in which it provides Skateistan’s educators to children with limited resources. By doing this, it introduces new communities to skateboarding, providing families with critical social services. This program offers weekly opportunities for economically developing communities to engage in creative activities.

Another project from the organization is Skate and Create. This project aims to provide an inclusive space for young learners to develop healthy social relationships and learn essential life skills. Skateistan’s educators provide four annual curriculums focusing on wellness, equality, creative expression and natural science. The program offers a valuable experience for children regardless of their gender, literacy or current ability.

Skateistan’s Educational Programs

Skateistan also runs a Back-to-School program. The organization partners with schools and services to ensure students have access to quality public education. Using its partnerships, it works to align students with their national curriculums. In Afghanistan, Skateistan offers an accelerated program for students; students join the Skate School for five days a week, covering three grades of public education within eleven months. Once students complete this program, they enroll in their country’s public school system.

In addition, Skateistan’s Dropping In program gives students access to safe and accommodating learning spaces. Here, young learners can develop goals and get a better understanding of themselves. Students have the opportunity to utilize the Skate School’s facilities. Students can participate in skateboarding and sports events, read in one of the organization’s libraries, participate in weekly book clubs and study groups and use the Skate School’s quiet studying areas. This program continues throughout the year, providing children with a safe space even on school vacations.

Skateistan’s Youth Leadership Program

Finally, the social skateboarding organization provides students with a Youth Leadership program. This program allows students to facilitate and lead their communities. In this program, students collaborate each week, working on media training, event planning, international cultural exchanges and foundational safety skills to assist educators in class. This program provides students with the opportunity to learn leadership skills from Skateistan’s educators and a chance for involvement in their communities.

Goodpush Alliance

In addition to Skateistan’s own programs, the organization developed an initiative, the Goodpush Alliance. This initiative focuses on providing inclusive skating spaces to children around the world, providing support and knowledge between social skateboarding projects worldwide. It also offers grassroots and established global skate organizations training through, workshops, support calls, awards and online resources. These resources cover topics ranging from developing quality skate lessons to providing an inclusive space for children.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co.

Rolling Thunder Supply Co. is one of the leading suppliers of skateboards. Besides selling skateboards, the brand has a philanthropic stance on skateboarding, partnering with social skateboarding organizations to support their causes. For example, one of its most recent projects was with Make Life Skate Life. Rolling Thunder has promised to build two skateparks in 2021 and 2022 and support underdeveloped communities in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Make Life Skate Life has previously built skateparks in 20 economically developing communities across India.

The Heart Supply

Another social skateboarding organization is The Heart Supply. This is an organization that donates skateboards to underprivileged youth around the world. The organization uses a part of its proceeds from its skate decks sold online and in major stores like Target to provide quality skateboards to children in low and middle-income countries. So far, it has donated hundreds of skateboards in over 51 countries. This program offers impoverished communities a chance to experience creative and physical activity with high-quality equipment.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty-related crimeCrime is a significant issue around the world, especially in developing countries where limited resources contribute to higher poverty-related crime rates. In countries such as South Africa, high crime rates are prevalent among children and adolescents. Correlations exist because of increased time and fewer resources to productively fill children’s free time after school. Because of this, many nonprofit organizations and individuals have worked to provide more after-school activities for children as a deterrent from the path to criminal activity. Although many nonprofit-sponsored activities contribute to children’s education while discouraging criminal behavior, sports have been one of the most impactful extracurriculars due to a focus on discipline, responsibility and guidance.

Criminal Behavior in South Africa by the Numbers

Crime in South Africa is a significant issue that is rooted in poverty and inadequate access to basic resources. According to PLOS ONE, an online journal, “recent statistics show 2,250,257 crimes reported for 2015 alone [1]. Further all crimes have increased since 2013, when 2,217,862 crimes were reported [1]. Also the rate of interpersonal violence in South Africa is the sixth highest in Africa and fifteenth in the world, with an intentional homicide rate of 31.8 per 100,000 population [2].”

Based on the criminal activity report, criminal activity in South Africa is increasing from year to year and is largely tied to violent crimes such as homicide. These crimes are oftentimes fueled by a lack of economic resources in addition to psychological factors. Racial and gender inequality also exacerbate issues. Although these crime statistics include offenders of all ages, dangerous behavior and crimes are also significant issues in South African schools.

An organization called Safer Spaces conducted an observational study in which pupils from several South African schools and various grade levels were asked about their school experience. “Of all learners, 15.3% had been victimized (Burton, 2008). Of the secondary school learners, 22% had been victimized (Burton & Leoschut, 2013).” This is a large portion of the student body that is experiencing violence or other dangerous behavior while at school, making early intervention a necessary effort.

Extracurricular Solutions

Although poverty-related crime among youth is a big issue in South Africa as it can lead to more serious crimes in adulthood, extracurricular activities can make a significant impact in decreasing the number of children that engage in criminal behavior. For example, The International Committee of the Red Cross works with AMANDLA Edu Football to use soccer as a safe activity for South African children to spend their time with after school. The latter organization is a nonprofit that is paving the path for early intervention for criminal activity in South Africa. It is located in Capetown and runs during the peak crime hours, offering children and other individuals an alternative activity to crime.

In Capetown, this means that kids can spend their weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. and weekend nights on a soccer field where they learn discipline, respect, and have fun away from dangerous activities. This is especially impactful as it ensures that these children will have adult supervision and guidance between the time school ends and their parents get home from work, further decreasing opportunities for dangerous behaviors.

Poverty-related crime among youth is a serious issue in South Africa that contributes to high levels of violent crime in adulthood, making this a pressing issue to address. Moreover, criminal behavior is commonly linked with poverty, inadequate access to food and other daily necessities and other issues of discrimination. Partnering or contributing to organizations that provide extracurricular alternatives for children is key. These efforts ensure that children are equipped with the resources and guidance that will deter them from criminal behavior in the present and future and will decrease the overall levels of poverty-related crime.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

Nadia Comaneci
The dynasty of Romanian gymnastics dates back to the 1976 Montreal Summer Games when Nadia Comaneci earned the first perfect score in gymnastics for her uneven bars routine. Her success kickstarted a legacy of greatness for other Romanian teams in future games.

Fast forward 40 years and the story changed significantly. In 2016, the Romanian team’s fifth-place Olympic qualifying finish terminated their ability to defend their country’s four-decades-long medal streak in the sport. The sole athlete to represent Romania in women’s gymnastics was Catalina Ponor who competed on the floor and balance beam apparatuses but failed to win a medal.

The downfall of Romanian gymnastics is not due to a lack of talent or ability. Rather, it is due to a combination of economic factors that make Olympic glory less lucrative than in years past.

The History of Romania’s Economy

From the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu held a firm grip on the country’s economy. Unlike other Eastern European nations, Ceauşescu felt the best way of controlling the economy was to dictate individual economic transactions and freedom.

In a 1974 speech, he stated that “To give everyone the freedom of spending society’s money on whatever, and however, it might strike one’s mind—this is not possible. We have a planned economy. Nobody has the right to build or produce what is not provided for by the Plan. “The practices of restrictive employment cards and decreased labor movement made individual economic growth difficult to attain.

The Reward of Winning

Each country differs in its rewards for Olympic champions. In 2016, the BBC reported that Romanian athletes earn $79,000 and a monthly income for life if they win gold.

As of 2021, the minimum wage in Romania is just under 500 EUR. Just 10 years ago, it was less than half of the current average.

The prize for winning gold is still relatively high in comparison to the minimum income in Romania. However, the reward may not be worth the cost of lifelong dedication and, at times, abuse.

Abuse in Romanian Gymnastics

The downfall of Romanian gymnastics was inevitable. Just in 2021, Olympic coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi received accusations of abusing Romanian and American gymnasts as early as the 1960s.

In particular, the previously mentioned Nadia Comaneci was one of the athletes who experienced abuse. She was “starved to the point of developing eating disorders, slapped and denied medical treatment,” according to The Washington Post. Romanian author Stejarel Olaru’s book, “Nadia and the Securitate,” further details her abuse.

Olaru further detailed the abuse, saying that “the girls ate toothpaste before going to bed – this is how hungry they were. In some cases, they talked about drinking water from the toilet tank in secret because they were often not allowed to drink water.”

The Karolyis defected to U.S. in 1981. Bela coached all-around gold medalist Mary Lou Retton and the 1992 U.S. national team. Martha coached the gold-medal-winning 1996 U.S. national team.

The Current State of Romania’s Economy

Since 2019, the primary economic focus has been on, according to the World Bank, “strengthening Romania’s institutions, advancing poverty reduction and promoting shared prosperity” through:

  1. Providing equal opportunity for success.
  2. Growth within the private sector.
  3. Prevention of economic shocks.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) allocated almost $2 billion. This money went to various sectors such as education, health and the environment.

The Reimbursable Advisory Services (RAS), a World Bank program, dedicated another $114 million for “improved strategic planning and budgeting, evidence-based policymaking, protection of the vulnerable, disaster risk management, human development and strengthened capacity for monitoring and evaluation.”

The Advisory Services and Analytics (ASA) program, also through the World Bank, funds projects such as the inclusion of the minority ethnic group Roma, development of the business sector and improved infrastructure.

The Connection to Gymnastics

The improved economic situation in Romania allows for the average Romanian citizen to achieve moderate economic comfort. If a Romanian wants to succeed economically, they can now attain it through more traditional means such as working or acquiring an education.

Simply put, there is less of a need to dedicate life to sports like gymnastics to live a comfortable life. The wider range of economic opportunities and the abuse that plagued the lives of 1970s Romanian gymnasts like Comaneci attributed to the downfall of Romanian gymnastics.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

Philippines Won Olympic GoldOn July 26, 2021, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz made Filipino and Olympic history. After 97 years of competing at the Olympic games, the Philippines secured its first-ever gold medal when Diaz won the 55-kilogram category of women’s weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She also set an Olympic record when she lifted a combined total of 224 kilograms.

Making Something Out of Nothing

Diaz grew up in a large family in the Philippines with few resources. “We were poor back then,” she said. “When I was a kid, I told [my mother] I wanted to work in a bank and count money.” She never imagined becoming an Olympic weightlifter, but after she started weightlifting as a child, she never looked back.

Diaz had to work with limited training supplies due to her family’s economic standing. When she began weightlifting, she only had access to plastic pipes holding concrete weights. When she was 11, she participated in a local weightlifting competition, where she received a barbell. Diaz eventually broke the barbell bar from training with it so much.

Causes of Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines is a small, multi-island country in Southeast Asia that has faced many years of economic struggle. The following are factors that cause a high poverty rate in the Philippines.

  • Slow economic growth and little poverty aid. The Philippines has struggled to deliver consistent economic growth for the entire nation. When economic booms do happen, they rarely help poverty-stricken communities. The nation also has frequent crisis periods that cause inflation, which further hurts low-income communities.
  • Trouble expanding the agricultural sector and creating quality jobs. Many Filipino citizens, especially low-income citizens, face difficulty finding a job with good pay. This is largely due to a lack of development in the agricultural sector. Without growth in the agricultural sector, overall economic growth is difficult.
  • Rapid population growth and resulting income inequality. The country’s population is quickly rising, creating a larger gap between economic classes and increasing poverty throughout the country.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in the national poverty rate increasing from 16.7% in 2018 to an estimated 21% in 2020, even after accounting for the effects of government subsidies (e.g., the social amelioration program).”

Learning to Adjust

Growing up in poverty in the Philippines prepared Diaz for the tough times ahead. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Diaz found herself stuck in Malaysia due to travel restrictions between countries. There, she had no access to a weight room, much less the correct training equipment for her weightlifting competitions.

However, Diaz was used to making do with what she had. She created a weight bar out of a wooden pole and large water bottles in order to train. A video of her snatching and squatting with the makeshift barbell went viral after her Olympic victory.

Diaz’s Olympic win was one for the history books. She proved that coming from poverty does not necessarily mean that one should count a person out. A lot of work still needs to occur in the Philippines, but when Diaz won the Olympic gold, she gave light and hope to her country.

Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Flickr

Suni Lee and her Legacy on a Secret WarSuni Lee stepped center stage in the 2021 Tokyo games with her gold all-around win for America. Many are celebrating her win as a step forward for Asian representation in America. Furthermore, many are comparing her to the likes of Simone Biles or Gabby Douglas as a gymnastics legend. Her potential legacy reaches far from America to the country where her parents were born: Laos.

Laos and the Hmong People

Laos is in East Asia, in between Vietnam and Thailand. It is one of the few communist countries remaining in Asia. Laos is known as one of the poorest countries in East Asia. It has a population of 6.7 million. The Hmong are about a third of the ethnic community in Laos. The indigenous Hmong people originate from the mountainous areas in Vietnam, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. As of 2015, about 600,000 live in Laos.

A Secret War

Mass migration of the Hmong people to America occurred about 50 years ago, after the Vietnam war. Suni Lee’s family were among those who migrated. Despite Laos not being a part of Vietnam, it did not escape the devastation of the war. In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. conducted more than 580,000 bombings missions on Laos, making it “the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.” A third of these bombs did not explode immediately, but they did lead to 20,000 injuries and deaths long after America stopped dropping them.

Now, there are about 50 deaths related to these bombs each year, with about 40% of those dying being children. The bombings were a part of the secret war to support the Royal Lao Government against the Pathet Lao. During this secret war, the U.S. recruited the Hmong people to help fight Southeast Asian communists. Between 30,000 and 40,000 Hmong citizens lost their lives in this effort. After America withdrew from Vietnam and Laos, communist forces punished the Hmong and others for helping the United States. Thousands had to flee their homes to Thailand, with many dying along the journey. Hmong citizens resettled in other countries like America. California and Minnesota, where Suni Lee is from, contain the majority of migrated Hmong people.

The Cost of War

The government of Laos has repressed and committed crimes against the Hmong people since then and without much scrutiny. According to Unrepresented Nations and People Organization, the LPRP, or the Lao People Revolutionary Party, suppresses civil and individual groups opposed to its efforts. It is also the only legal party in the country. Widespread discrimination against ethnic groups like the Hmong includes religious and cultural restrictions. This discrimination leads to poverty, a lack of education and a lack of health care among the Hmong population in Laos. Economic hardship due to the war has placed even more pressure on Laos.

Suni Lee’s New legacy

Suni Lee’s win is for the U.S. and the larger Asian American community, but it could be potentially life-changing for the Hmong community. The Hmong people’s history and impact on U.S. history have been largely unknown to most Americans. Since the start of the Olympics, Google has seen a spike in searches using the word “Hmong.” One of the trending questions after Suni’s gold was “What is Hmong Descent?” Suni Lee is starting to bring more attention to this community through her efforts.

After the migration to America, many Hmong families discouraged sports and other extracurriculars, according to NBC. Suni Lee’s participation in these Olympics could also change that. Many Hmong families drove out to see Suni, who reflects on their past and possible future. Reports say after the success of individuals like Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, African American participation in gymnastics skyrocketed. Suni Lee may have the same impact. For now, she is bringing the spotlight to her community.

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr

The ICC The International Cricket Council (ICC) launched a new partnership with UNICEF in June 2021. The partnership seeks to aid UNICEF’s COVID-19 emergency response efforts in South Asia. The partnership marked another chapter in the two organization’s combined aid efforts through the ICC’s Cricket for Good campaign.

COVID-19’s Effects on Children in South Asia

UNICEF’s efforts in South Asia are a high priority due to the pandemic. The organization estimates that the pandemic likely contributed to the added deaths of 228,000 children younger than the age of 5 in the region’s six largest countries. Disease-related mortality rates rose too. UNICEF estimates almost 6,000 additional adolescent deaths from diseases such as “malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and typhoid” as a result of disrupted treatment services prompted by the pandemic.

Furthermore, “the number of young children being treated for severe acute malnutrition (SAM)” decreased by more than 80% in Bangladesh and Nepal. UNICEF’s report details an expected increase in adolescent health issues. These issues range from stunting to anemia due to a rise in food insecurity and undernutrition in South Asia. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a significant decline in the availability of essential services. These statistics illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare services in South Asia, among other impacts.

In addition, the effects of the pandemic extend beyond physical health for children in nations such as India. Yasmin Ali Haque, a UNICEF representative in India states, “Children are facing mental health issues and are at greater risk of violence as lockdowns shut them off from their vital support networks.” Haque also notes the increase in illegal adoptions in the country, prompting concerns of potential child trafficking and abuse.

UNICEF’s Call for Aid

As a result of these consequences, UNICEF called for aid in support of measures to improve the COVID-19 response in South Asia. These actions include increasing medical supplies, sanitation and infection control measures in the region. The organization has already worked to provide critical medical equipment such as ventilators, oxygen concentrators and testing kits to countries such as India and Sri Lanka. While UNICEF continues to request support from both private and corporate interests, the organization’s partnership with the ICC may prove to be increasingly important.

The International Cricket Council and UNICEF

The ICC recently launched a fundraising campaign in support of UNICEF. The campaign, running from June 18 to June 22, 2021, occurred in the English city of Southampton during the World Test Championship Final between New Zealand and India. The Council, through the Cricket for Good campaign, intends to use the massive sports audience to promote UNICEF goals.

The ICC commits to raising funds during cricket games and broadcasts while also utilizing the group’s digital platforms for fundraising efforts. All funds raised through the campaign will go directly toward UNICEF’s COVID-19 relief efforts in South Asia.

“We appeal to cricket fans around the world to come together to show their support for the work of UNICEF at such a difficult time and donate to such a worthwhile cause,” Acting International Cricket Council CEO Geoff Allardice said in the announcement for the partnership.

These recent efforts mark the latest commitments in a string of coordinated efforts between the ICC and UNICEF. Past campaigns focused on areas such as empowering young women and girls through cricket. During the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, UNICEF’s fundraising efforts garnered $180,000 to finance a girls’ cricket initiative in Afghanistan.

Looking Ahead

As the pandemic continues, support from organizations such a UNICEF and private organizations like the ICC will be critical. Increasing fears are emerging over the potential effects additional waves of the virus would have on children. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recently emphasized that COVID-19 holds a lower direct health risk for children, releasing a statement detailing that “almost 90% of infections in children are mild/asymptomatic.”

The IAP also explained that there is no evidence indicating that children will suffer severe cases of COVID-19 in a subsequent wave of the virus. Nevertheless, the IAP stresses the importance of increasing medical capacities for children in the country in order to avoid deaths from preventable or treatable diseases.

UNICEF echoes the need to support childhood healthcare as the pandemic continues. Fundraising support from influential groups like the ICC could go a long way. These partnerships are vital in helping relief organizations provide the resources and assistance necessary to alleviate some of the problems affecting South Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brett Grega
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Foreign Aid to Côte d'Ivoire
An unlikely form of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire is on the rise: donated sports stadiums from China. However, these gifts do not come free.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Olympic-Sized Gift From China

In an act of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire, China gifted a massive 130 million euro stadium in Ebimpé. Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara boasts an impressive 60,000 person capacity. It is the biggest stadium in Côte d’Ivoire and the ninth-largest in all of Africa. The new Olympic level venue will host the African Cup of Nations finals in 2023, a major soccer tournament.

Stadium Diplomacy

For decades, China donated massive new sports stadiums to numerous African countries in an act of goodwill and self-interest. Stadium diplomacy, the term for this new political strategy, offers China and the other country a unique deal. The receiving nation sees a boost to its economy through the revenue these stadiums generate. Additionally, China gets numerous benefits in return.

In the last 50 years, China constructed more than 100 sports stadiums all over the continent of Africa. This guaranteed itself access to natural resources, privileged trading contracts, strengthened relations, access to political leaders and supporters in the United Nations. China is now the biggest trading partner of all of Africa. Stadium diplomacy falls under the category of soft power, a type of diplomacy that uses attraction, negotiation and cooperation rather than force.

How Can Stadiums Fight Poverty?

While Côte d’Ivoire boasts one of West Africa’s most robust economies, 39.4% of its population still lives in poverty. Furthermore, the economy experienced a recent downturn since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The services and manufacturing sectors, both involved in constructing and running a stadium, are among those people expected to bring the nation’s economy back on track.

The stadium will bring an influx of people and infrastructure to the region. It will also bolster the economy, fueling the service and manufacturing sectors and provide jobs, all as a result of foreign aid to Côte d’Ivoire. Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara will also help develop the nearby Anyama region, which is building its first metro line in preparation for the crowd.

Criticism of the Stadiums

However, stadium diplomacy has its critics, with many Africans desiring more direct help. While Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara praised the stadium as “one of the most beautiful things our country has accomplished in the field of sports,” other nations have expressed concern and even anger.

Gabon, a nation that lies along the western coast of Central Africa, faced a major backlash among its citizens for participating in stadium diplomacy. Engong Stadium, located in Oyem, had a quick and dramatic turnaround from construction to abandonment. The lavish complex sports has three basketball courts, a tennis court and an international standard track-and-field. However, it is now empty and unused. Locals were angry about what they saw as a misuse of resources and money. “We cannot eat your stadiums” they chanted, adorned in combat uniforms. At the same time, groups stormed the overgrown field and burned down the presidential box.

Whether Côte d’Ivoire’s new stadium will turn its economy around will become more clear in the future. However, one thing is certain: stadium diplomacy in Côte d’Ivoire offers an extremely innovative and very plausible way to alleviate regional poverty.

– Caroline Bersch
Photo: Unsplash

running eventsMarathons and 5Ks offer opportunities to bond with community members, promote a healthy lifestyle and raise awareness of global poverty. As a result, millions of people participate in running events every year to fundraise for various causes. Since COVID-19 guidelines restrict large in-person gatherings, organizations have increasingly hosted races in which people can participate from anywhere. People can now join in from their city squares, their neighborhood parks or even their treadmills at home. As a result, greater numbers of people can contribute to the fight to end poverty.

3 Notable Running Events Addressing Global Poverty

  1. Run to Attack Poverty. This annual running event is hosted by a Texas-based organization with a global reach, Attack Poverty. Participants have the option to choose from running a 5K or a 10K, with a children’s race to include younger people too. In 2012, the organization opened a branch in Uganda called Friends of Uganda to help address issues of poverty in the country. Since its establishment, Friends of Uganda has helped address Uganda’s water shortage and provided healthcare services to thousands of Ugandans via “free mobile medical clinics.” Furthermore, friends of Uganda built a high school to accommodate roughly 104 students and established several micro-farms, all while creating job opportunities in the country. The Run to Attack Poverty race helps fund these efforts. The organization also sells Attack Poverty apparel to raise funds and spread awareness of the cause.
  2. 5K Run to End Poverty: The Acacia insurance group hosted this running event in support of Global Citizen’s fight against poverty. Acacia companies urged employees to partake in a virtual 5K to raise donations for the Global Citizen nonprofit. For every employee registered to run the 5K, Acacia donated to Global Citizen’s fight to end global poverty. Anyone at all, however, could register for a $15 donation to Global Citizen. The 5K was to be completed within 48 hours and allowed participants to run anywhere in the world, logging their runs via the atlasGO app.
  3. Global 6K for Water: The global nonprofit World Vision hosted this running event on May 22, 2021. The purpose of the run was to “bring life-changing clean water to those who need it most.” To gain as many participants as possible, World Vision encouraged people all around the world to participate, regardless of whether the individual chooses to “walk, jog or stroller-run.” Aside from the charitable run, for every $1 donation World Vision receives, the organization donates about 65 cents to community-based programs in almost 100 countries around the world. The remaining 35 cents goes toward impact maximization, which translates to investments in monitoring, fundraising, experts and more.

Running to Reduce Poverty

Even in a new, socially distanced landscape, both companies and nonprofits have utilized running events to raise awareness and donations to combat global poverty. Furthermore, companies and organizations like Acacia and World Vision have opened their races to more people through flexible start times and locations. As events like these continue, everyone can help support those who live in poverty, one step at a time.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr